From time immemorial, bards and authors have written classics on women's loneliness and identity crisis. Tagore's Nashtaneer was one of them. The story was immortalized with Ray's celluloid classic "Charulata". So, when a film named "Charuulata 2011" releases, which is also based on Tagore's story, it's not unnatural for expectations to grow.
Movie Review: It wouldn't be fair to the cast and crew of the film if one starts to compare Ray's film with this. Director Agnidev Chatterjee has loosely followed the main storyline, merging it with his own. Today's Charu is Chaiti (Rituparna Sengupta), a young, beautiful and intellectual wife of a very wealthy newspaper editor - Bikramjit (Arjun Chakraborty). With Bikram being preoccupied with his editorial responsibilities, Chaiti keeps herself busy with expensive saris, filing nails, watching TV and, despite being a highly educated modern woman, does nothing on her own.
From the very start, the director has played with the timeline of the film. So, the story builds in a non-linear way. Starting off on an interesting note, eventually this jumping to and fro gets a touch jumbled up. Chaiti, depressed with a miscarriage and the lack of physical intimacy with her husband, befriends Amal ( Dibyendu Mukherjee) on Internet. To Amal she becomes "Charuulata 2011". Her lonely heart finally finds the right company. But the story goes on to show how guilt pangs over her intimacy with Amal make Chaiti sever all her ties with him, but still she can't resist meeting him when he finally comes to Kolkata from London.
Suddenly, the emotional intimacy turns sexual. This is where the film loses its depth. From the moment Chaiti realizes that Amal is her husband's cousin, Sanju, who's going to stay at their place, the film starts to drag. All through the second half, it's Chaiti's guilt versus her desire for Sanju. Without the presence of the sublime mental connection of love between them, the movie becomes a story of a rich, lonely wife's adulterous affair with her husband's brother. Love becomes synonymous with sexual desire.
Shirsha Ray's cinematography showing frequent close-up shots of Chaiti or panoramic shots of a lonesome woman in a deserted, cloudy sea beach tries to catch the story's tension. Director Agnidev also makes sincere efforts to portray Chaiti's sympathy-evoking mental state with appropriate dialogues and small nuances of expression. Indraadip Das Gupta's background score has a dreamy quality to it, but at times it's like the stuff you hear in thrillers. Unfortunately, the songs too don't stay on.
It's completely a Rituparna Sengupta film. The camera stays on her, gives her all the attention and she basks in it. Ritu proves once again that given an opportunity, she can stun everyone with her understated acting. She perfectly portrays the contradictions in Chaiti. Arjun Chakraborty makes an earnest effort, but turns melodramatic in some scenes. You will actually fall in love with Dibyendu Mukherjee's dubbed baritone; but otherwise he is just a presence to complement Chaiti's character. His character is important, but the role isn't. Kaushik Sen and Dolon Ray are brilliant as Chaiti's brother and sisterin-law. In fact, Kaushik should try portraying negative shades more often.
Despite these efforts, the film is all about sexual desire and lacks the soul, which makes it incomplete. It can be summarized by one dialogue uttered by Chaiti's friend, Arnobi's (Rii), in unnecessarily accented Bengali - "Sotti kore bol, tui or sathe shute chash, tai toh?"